A Shift Towards Sustainable Fashion

As awareness surrounding the importance of sustainability spreads, an increasing premium is being placed on efforts to shift our society towards consumption patterns that are mindful of our impact on the planet in reference to climate change. But where do our current fashion habits fall in to this shift towards ethical sustainability, can fashion make this important leap in securing our future?

As a billion-dollar industry, it is no surprise that fashion is liable for a large portion of the permanent changes to the Earth’s climate. Britain’s footprint resulting from the consumption of clothing, for example, amounts to 1.7 million tonnes of material waste, 6,300 million cubic meters of water and 26 million tonnes of CO 2 (from production to disposal) per year. This puts clothing fourth after housing, transport and food in terms of its impact on the environment, according to new research by the government’s waste advisory body Wrap.

Despite significant progress made by brands and retailers to minimise their impact, energy, waste and water usage are predicted to keep rising. Many manufacturers are now using sustainable cotton initiatives and innovative dyeing technology to reduce environmental pressure, as well as reduce the usage of harmful chemicals as part of a UK-wide push to promote sustainability schemes.

However, whilst brands are beginning to reduce their carbon and environmental footprint, the problem has now shifted to consumption. The on-going saturation of fashion adverts, magazines and celebrity ‘looks’ feeds our constant desire to consume, and when identity formation is the leading cause of consumer habits, individuals regularly redesign themselves through the purchase of new clothes. In 2016, over 1,130,000 tonnes of clothes were purchased in the UK alone.

Theorists have argued that the idea of ‘multiple selves in evolution’ is central to fashion lovers. Vast consumer demands are – sadly – fuelled by growing insecurity, peer pressure and a desire to ‘fit in’ in a competitive world of ubiquitous social media. Thus, it will be impossible to radically cut our consumption patterns until an understanding of the relationship behind materialistic consumption and human satisfaction has been established.

Part of the problem lies in the complexity of today’s global supply chains. Consumers have been radically distanced from the origin and production of their clothing and are therefore blind-sighted from the detrimental side effects of their fast fashion habits. It seems only in the wake of catastrophic events such as the 2013 Bangladesh factory collapse that killed 1,137 workers (mostly women) that consumers have awoken to the reality of ‘fast fashion’. Events like these have seen the rise in anti-consumerism movements, with responsibility no being weighted heavily on consumers, who of course are free to choose if and what they purchase.

In a drive to prevent sweatshop labour, catastrophic factory incidents and global environmental degradation, anti-consumerist alternative models are developing within the fashion world. A sustainable fashion paradigm must open our eyes to the bigger picture, acknowledging human needs and desires through reviving our relationships with both ourselves and others, including the individuals who design and manufacture our clothes. ‘Slow Fashion’ encourages creative participation, reworking, swapping and mending our clothes to work towards the elimination of waste. It celebrates individualisation, unique and diverse styles, and the learning of new skills such as sewing.

Current industrial manufacturing fails to account for diversity amongst consumers, leading to many products being modelled to an unrealistic ‘average’ size, and the mass production of lines and lines of identical pieces. In order for a new fashion ethic that breeds self-love, diversity, ethical manufacture and environmental sustainability, the industry will have to be responsive to our diverse tastes. Slow fashion will popularise smaller, local brands and makers whose flexibility will allow for the production of one-off, personal items that allow consumers to re-connect with the manufacture process and express themselves through fashion.

This rampant rejection of the Fordist business model that dominated 20th century manufacturing – where ‘Fast Fashion’ culture fed disposable consumerism – derives from progress in technologies that respond closely to consumer demands. This ethic will strengthen relationships between buyer/user and producer as well as that between people and the environment. The notion of second hand and sharing between friends, encouraging recycling over disposability, and teaching young people to design and hand-make their own clothing will further engage us with sustainable ideologies. Garments designed for longevity that value social integration and evoke debates about our role in nurturing the planet will realign current identity-formation driven consumer habits with those associated with sustainability; it is about “designing confidence – and capability – including pieces that encourage versatility, inventiveness, personalisation and individual participation.

Article by Freya Marechal, 3rd year Fashion Communication student at Leeds Arts University 

 

Review of 2017

2017 was a bumper year for us at LCCE and we’re super proud of all our achievements!

We welcomed our 2,221st member! This is a huge achievement for us and our hope is that in 2018 we can reach our 2500th member! 2018 is our 10 year anniversary, so watch this space for some celebrations coming up next year!

We held 2 socials for our volunteers, where we got to know each other better over food, drink and crafts. We like to show our appreciation for the work our volunteers put in every month and what better way than an afternoon of fun and making something new! We’ll be hosting more socials in 2018, so watch this space for more information.

We also shared the sustainable fashion message of LCCE far and wide, appearing on Made in Leeds TV, being interviewed for the Team Leeds Renovation podcast and had articles published by Lucky Dip Club and Independent Leeds! Click on the links to catch up if you missed them!

We also grabbed every opportunity to play dress up, with our witchy themed October exchange visited by a full coven of volunteers! We’re always blown away by the creativity of our team when it comes to their outfits, and halloween was no exception!

We also teamed up with Leeds Libraries to show you how to repurpose and upcycle your clothes. Take your LCCE items down to the library and their team will show you how to make it into something awesome. So far they’ve shown us how to embroider and print on our items, with more sessions in store in 2018! Find out more here.

And of course, we couldn’t have done it without our amazing team of volunteers, who make all this possible! So a huge thank you to all our volunteers in 2017 – whether you’re a regular or a one-off we really appreciate all your hard work.

If you’d like to join this team of fantastic humans in 2018 and help to keep LCCE running, drop us a line at leedscommunityclothesexchange@hotmail.com

“Livia Firth: Every time you shop, always think, ‘Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”

Our clothing magpie Becky talks about how she determines if something is allowed in her impressive collection of clothing.

This year on the blog we have featured attendees of the exchange that have opted not to buy new, be that for a year or longer. Personally I would find this challenge extremely hard, so I choose to use the 30 wears method. Anything new I buy, I think about what use I am going to get out of this new item. Where will it fit into my wardrobe? I also keep a list of new purchases as a way of being mindful about what i’m accumulating.

For those that follow me over on Instagram you’ll have been treated to an almost constant stream of selfies. I have been trying to document what I wear throughout the year, as we are now over halfway I thought I’d share with you were i’m up to.

 

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Fairtrade Fortnight 2017

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Looking at the image above do you feel that everyone is being paid fairly for their labor and costs that they have put in to the garment? The Fairtrade Foundation don’t and this fortnight they aim to highlight the work they do.

We currently use a wide variety of language to describe how we are reducing our impact on the environment, and creating a sustainable future for the planet and people. So what is Fairtrade and where dose it fit in?

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We need a Fashion Revolution!!!

Continuing with our theme this month of loving what you have and not buying new. This week we’d like to highlight the work of Fashion Revolution. They encourage people to ask brands #whomademyclothes during their yearly Fashion Revolution Week 18-24th April, and to question where their clothes come from and who makes them.

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“On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1,133 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. That’s when Fashion Revolution was born.”

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Pre Loved and Vintage

Last Sunday some of the LCCE team went to the Preloved Kilo a pay by weight Vintage and Pre-loved clothing event, there are other events available! In our previous post I discussed how with the start of the new year many people were giving up ‘New’ clothing. One way to do this is to purchase Vintage or Pre-loved items, and a great way to do this is at a buy weight event. Many of these companies go over to Europe to source their stock and bring it back to the UK, as Vintage stores here snap up all the bargains and stock for their shops.

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